Sergey Sirotkin has said that he is not concerned about fellow Sauber test driver Simona de Silvestro, calling her a “marketing move”.
Sirotkin joined Sauber midway through last season as a reserve driver with the view of claiming a full-time seat in 2014. At the time, he was just 17 years old, and due to become the youngest driver in the history of Formula 1 had he started a race.
However, the plans did not materialize. Some of the investment that came with his signing fell through, and Sauber eventually opted to retain Esteban Gutierrez and sign Adrian Sutil from Force India.
For 2015, there is a five-way fight for two seats at Sauber. As well as Sirotkin, Gutierrez and Sutil, former IndyCar driver Simona de Silvestro has been signed with plans to give her a full-time drive in 2015. So far, she has taken part in two tests for the team, with the most recent being yesterday in Spain.
The fifth driver in the running is Giedo van der Garde. The Dutch driver spent a season at Caterham in 2013 before joining Sauber for this season, and also has sights on a full-time seat at the Swiss team in 2015.
For Sirotkin, van der Garde is his biggest rival for a seat, dubbing de Silvestro a “marketing move”.
“At Sauber there is a third driver, Giedo van der Garde, a test driver, myself, and a sponsored driver, the person they are helping to reach the level of Formula 1,” Sirotkin explained to Russian website F1News.ru.
“But I think that is a marketing move, so I do not take it as something to be afraid of. Let’s see what happens.”
Sirotkin also went on to reveal that he is due to take part in practice for the Russian Grand Prix in October.
“I was actually supposed to participate in free practice not only in Sochi, but it is an open question,” he said. “Obviously, in terms of marketing, public interest and so on, the logical thing is to do it in Sochi, but we cannot yet say whether this will happen in Sochi or the next track.
“At the moment, my priority is World Series by Renault, so I do not plan to give preference to other cases in F1 if they can complicate my task or hinder my performance in this championship. It may give the impression that there was a lull but, in fact, it is not.”
Sirotkin’s performances in World Series by Renault over the past three years have been largely underwhelming, and he is probably the least suitable driver of the five in the running for the seat at Sauber. The irony of his comments is that without his backing, it is unlikely that he would be close to a Formula 1 seat.
For the time being though, the fight for the seats at Sauber remains open. With no points to show of so far in 2014, the team will be hoping that Sutil and Gutierrez can secure a top ten finish at some point soon to kick-start its campaign.